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Cannibalism in Beowulf and other Old English Texts

Printed From: History Community ~ All Empires
Category: Regional History or Period History
Forum Name: Medieval Europe
Forum Description: The Middle Ages: AD 500-1500
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Topic: Cannibalism in Beowulf and other Old English Texts
Posted By: King John
Subject: Cannibalism in Beowulf and other Old English Texts
Date Posted: 03-May-2009 at 20:43
While researching my last paper for my master's degree I came across some interesting passages in a few texts.  The texts that I looked at were Beowulf, Andreas, the Saint Christopher legends/cycles, and Wonders of the East (a combination of Miracula Orientalis and Liber Monstrorum).  In these texts there are a few common elements; the most interesting that I found was the use of Cannibalism to define the alien.  As most of you know, Grendel and his mother are both Cannibals; this helps to define them as monsters but it also places them as peripheral members of pagan Germanic society.  In Andreas St. Andrew is sent to rescue St. Matthew from the Mermedonians; this group of people is described as cannibals.  Wonders has many instances of cannibals, it specifically speaks of different tribes of men like the Cynocephali, Dobuii, and other anthrophoagi.  While the Passion of St Christopher doesn't explicitly call him a cannibal, he is named a cynocephali, the other texts in the cycle do.  The common thread through out these texts is that the cannibals live at a distance from the perspective of the overall greater culture– that is from culture producing the works.  In three of the four texts one can make the argument that cannibalism is a mark of distance from God; the Grendel family is said to be descended from Cain as are the cynocephali (Augustine of Hippo claims this), Mermedonian cannibalism not only establishes cultural distance but it is in direct contrast to the "civilized" customs of the Christians.  In the St. Christopher cycle Christopher loses his cannibalistic tendencies when he is converted to Christianity.

With all that said, the purpose of this thread is to discuss the uses of cannibalism in Old English literature.  That is to say is cannibalism used to define the alien or is it there to simply disgust the audience and make protagonists, like St. Christopher (a cynocephali), seem more human?  I understand this question might seem to require a knowledge of all the works mentioned above but in actuality that is not the case.  If you have knowledge of another instance of cannibalism in medieval literature whether English or not, please feel free to post it in this thread and we will discuss it as well.

To ask the question again; what is the purpose of cannibalism in the texts mentioned above; is it meant to define the alien or is it there to disgust the audience and make the protagonists seem more human?

*Edit: All instances of cannibalism in literature can be discussed here and we will tie them into the discussion.



Replies:
Posted By: King John
Date Posted: 03-May-2009 at 20:50
I just realized I failed to define a few terms in my opening post.

Cinocephali/Cynocephali = man with the head of a dog
Anthropophagi = man-eaters

If there are any other terms that need to be defined let me know and I will gladly define them.


Posted By: Byzantine Emperor
Date Posted: 03-May-2009 at 21:48
Good topic, KJ.  It is always nice to discover something in class that leads to a research project.  Cuts down on some of the work at the beginning!
 
Originally posted by King John King John wrote:

The texts that I looked at were Beowulf, Andreas, the Saint Christopher legends/cycles, and Wonders of the East (a combination of Miracula Orientalis and Liber Monstrorum).
 
Interesting texts.  Are the Wonders of the East and Miracula Orientalis in Old English and Latin, respectively?  What genre are they, something like a mythical traveler's account or Prester John?
 
Originally posted by King John King John wrote:

In these texts there are a few common elements; the most interesting that I found was the use of Cannibalism to define the alien.  As most of you know, Grendel and his mother are both Cannibals; this helps to define them as monsters but it also places them as peripheral members of pagan Germanic society.  In Andreas St. Andrew is sent to rescue St. Matthew from the Mermedonians; this group of people is described as cannibals.  Wonders has many instances of cannibals, it specifically speaks of different tribes of men like the Cynocephali, Dobuii, and other anthrophoagi.
 
The Greeks, and other "civilized" societies, considered cannibalism something that was against nature and natural law.  The same thing was believed concerning close consanguinous marriages.  I think Herodotus talks about anthropagoi and cynokephaloi in his History at some point.
 
Do the Anglo-Saxons have this same idea that these practices are "against nature" when they consider the practitioners "other?"
 
Originally posted by King John King John wrote:

With all that said, the purpose of this thread is to discuss the uses of cannibalism in Old English literature.  That is to say is cannibalism used to define the alien or is it there to simply disgust the audience and make protagonists, like St. Christopher (a cynocephali), seem more human?  I understand this question might seem to require a knowledge of all the works mentioned above but in actuality that is not the case.  If you have knowledge of another instance of cannibalism in medieval literature whether English or not, please feel free to post it in this thread and we will discuss it as well.
 
I would wager that cannibalism might be a literary trope such as those that are commonly employed in hagiographies to make the saint appear more holy and authoritative.  However, I do not know what kind of tropes appear in Old English literature.  In Byzantine hagiographies there are many different ones that you can see over and over again.  I don't recall something as extreme as cannibalism as being one.
 
Other instances of cannibalism in Byzantine literature appear in the histories and chronicles of the Crusades.  It is usually in the context of besieged peoples having to consume the dead because they are starving.  Latin and Muslim chroniclers mention this too.  It is usually looked on with extreme pity in this case.
 
Originally posted by King John King John wrote:

In three of the four texts one can make the argument that cannibalism is a mark of distance from God; the Grendel family is said to be descended from Cain as are the cynocephali (Augustine of Hippo claims this), Mermedonian cannibalism not only establishes cultural distance but it is in direct contrast to the "civilized" customs of the Christians.
 
Wow, I will have to look for this reference from St. Augustine.  Do you remember which work it is from?


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http://www.allempires.net/forum_posts.asp?TID=12713 - Late Byzantine Military
http://www.allempires.net/forum_posts.asp?TID=17337 - Ottoman perceptions of the Americas


Posted By: King John
Date Posted: 03-May-2009 at 22:07
Originally posted by Byzantine Emperor Byzantine Emperor wrote:

Good topic, KJ.  It is always nice to discover something in class that leads to a research project.  Cuts down on some of the work at the beginning!
 
Originally posted by King John King John wrote:

The texts that I looked at were Beowulf, Andreas, the Saint Christopher legends/cycles, and Wonders of the East (a combination of Miracula Orientalis and Liber Monstrorum).
 
Interesting texts.  Are the Wonders of the East and Miracula Orientalis in Old English and Latin, respectively?  What genre are they, something like a mythical traveler's account or Prester John?
Wonders exists in three manuscripts, one is entirely in Latin, the second (the Beowulf Manuscript) is entirely in Old English, and the third is in both Latin and Old English.  In terms of the genre Wonders is closely related to the "travel" accounts of Alexander the Great.  The problem is in calling the creatures described in Wonders mythical.  The Anglo-Saxons would have seen these creatures as being very real, as real as you or I even.
 
Quote
Originally posted by King John King John wrote:

In these texts there are a few common elements; the most interesting that I found was the use of Cannibalism to define the alien.  As most of you know, Grendel and his mother are both Cannibals; this helps to define them as monsters but it also places them as peripheral members of pagan Germanic society.  In Andreas St. Andrew is sent to rescue St. Matthew from the Mermedonians; this group of people is described as cannibals.  Wonders has many instances of cannibals, it specifically speaks of different tribes of men like the Cynocephali, Dobuii, and other anthrophoagi.
 
The Greeks, and other "civilized" societies, considered cannibalism something that was against nature and natural law.  The same thing was believed concerning close consanguinous marriages.  I think Herodotus talks about anthropagoi and cynokephaloi in his History at some point.
 
Do the Anglo-Saxons have this same idea that these practices are "against nature" when they consider the practitioners "other?"
Interesting tidbit about the Greeks.  I haven't come across any explicit claims that cannibalism is "against nature" it is implied that cannibalism is against cultural norms.  I think when get to the more religious works the idea of cannibalism being "against nature" is much easier to see.  In short I haven't really examined that question, but I will go back through the texts and take a look.
 
Quote
Originally posted by King John King John wrote:

In three of the four texts one can make the argument that cannibalism is a mark of distance from God; the Grendel family is said to be descended from Cain as are the cynocephali (Augustine of Hippo claims this), Mermedonian cannibalism not only establishes cultural distance but it is in direct contrast to the "civilized" customs of the Christians.
 
Wow, I will have to look for this reference from St. Augustine.  Do you remember which work it is from?
I want to say that the reference is De Civitatis Dei XVI.8.  Come to think of it I am pretty sure that's the place where St. Augustine talks about it.  Augustine obviously doesn't talk about "the Grendel family" but he does talk about certain "monstrous races of men" like the cynocephali.


Posted By: bod
Date Posted: 03-May-2009 at 22:19
I don't know these texts, except Beowulf. It seems that in most cultures people that are seen as monsters or barbarians are accused of being cannibals, even in recent history it was the fate of many a cartoon character to be thrown into an African cooking pot Disapprove.

Strabo describes the the Irish as being "More savage than the Britons, since they are man-eaters, and since they count it an honourable thing when their fathers die to devour them".

I will think of Grendel in a whole new way now, thank youSmile


Posted By: Byzantine Emperor
Date Posted: 03-May-2009 at 22:25
Originally posted by King John King John wrote:

The problem is in calling the creatures described in Wonders mythical.  The Anglo-Saxons would have seen these creatures as being very real, as real as you or I even.
 
Perhaps I should have defined the context of mythical.  It is probably safe to say that these were works of fiction or based on very unreliable hearsay.  They are fictional or mythical in that way.  Many most likely did believe in them because they were tales from strange lands that they knew were real "on the map."
 
Originally posted by King John King John wrote:

I want to say that the reference is De Civitatis Dei XVI.8.  Come to think of it I am pretty sure that's the place where St. Augustine talks about it.  Augustine obviously doesn't talk about "the Grendel family" but he does talk about certain "monstrous races of men" like the cynocephali.
 
I remember this now.  It is in the looooong chapter Augustine has on Biblical history and the preparation of the "Heavenly City" to receive the Incarnation.  I am actually taking a class on De Ciuitate Dei right now!  Here is the quote:
 
Quote St. Augustine, De Ciuitate Dei 16.8
 

It is also asked whether we are to believe that certain monstrous races of men, spoken of in secular history, have sprung from Noah’s sons, or rather, I should say, from that one man from whom they themselves were descended.  For it is reported that some have one eye in the middle of the forehead; some, feet turned backwards from the heel; some, a double sex, the right breast like a man, the left like a woman, and that they alternately beget and bring forth:  others are said to have no mouth, and to breathe only through the nostrils; others are but a cubit high, and are therefore called by the Greeks “Pigmies:” they say that in some places the women conceive in their fifth year, and do not live beyond their eighth.  So, too, they tell of a race who have two feet but only one leg, and are of marvellous swiftness, though they do not bend the knee:  they are called Skiopodes, because in the hot weather they lie down on their backs and shade themselves with their feet.  Others are said to have no head, and their eyes in their shoulders; and other human or quasi-human races are depicted in mosaic in the harbor esplanade of Carthage, on the faith of histories of rarities.  What shall I say of the Cynocephali, whose dog-like head and barking proclaim them beasts rather than men?  But we are not bound to believe all we hear of these monstrosities.  But whoever is anywhere born a man, that is, a rational, mortal animal, no matter what unusual appearance he presents in color, movement, sound, nor how peculiar he is in some power, part, or quality of his nature, no Christian can doubt that he springs from that one protoplast.  We can distinguish the common human nature from that which is peculiar, and therefore wonderful.



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http://www.allempires.net/forum_posts.asp?TID=12713 - Late Byzantine Military
http://www.allempires.net/forum_posts.asp?TID=17337 - Ottoman perceptions of the Americas


Posted By: King John
Date Posted: 03-May-2009 at 22:32
Originally posted by Byzantine Emperor Byzantine Emperor wrote:

Originally posted by King John King John wrote:

The problem is in calling the creatures described in Wonders mythical.  The Anglo-Saxons would have seen these creatures as being very real, as real as you or I even.
 
Perhaps I should have defined the context of mythical.  It is probably safe to say that these were works of fiction or based on very unreliable hearsay.  They are fictional or mythical in that way.  Many most likely did believe in them because they were tales from strange lands that they knew were real "on the map."
 
About this you are most certainly correct.


To Bod, part of what makes "the Grendel family's" cannibalism so scary and, dare I say, important is the fact that they are distant from the prevailing culture.  I think this is a common idea for the need to describe a population as cannibalistic.  I think you can make a similar argument for Strabo's claim about the Irish, thanks for that info.


Posted By: edgewaters
Date Posted: 03-May-2009 at 22:50

Originally posted by King John King John wrote:

As most of you know, Grendel and his mother are both Cannibals; this helps to define them as monsters but it also places them as peripheral members of pagan Germanic society.

That's absolutely it. I think you have to dig really a bit deeper than the Christian and medieval era to find the roots of this literary device. It's present much earlier - for instance, there are quite a number of Greek myths which feature cannibalism, from Cronus eating his children as they are born, to tribes of giant cannibals in the Odyssey (Lastragonians) to the cyclops (who resembles Grendel in some ways). It exists in many variations besides monsters and others. There are unintentional cannibals who unwittingly eat human flesh (such as Atreus, and also Demeter), and people who become cannibals during ecstatic religious rite, such as the Maenads and the Bacchantes. These were followers of Dionysius, who practiced sparagmos - the tearing apart of living beings with the hands - followed by omophagia, the eating of the raw flesh. Sometimes animals, sometimes people. Agave, for instance, is overcome by the sparagmos and tears her son Pentheus apart and eats him under the influence of Dionysius.

I believe there are similar stories among pagan groups of northern Europe as well. Such stories also exist along similar lines among other groups (for instance, the Wendigo of native American mythology - a sort of evil spirit of cannibalism who possesses humans and causes them to become supernatural cannibals).

Probably, at one time, long before the late pagan era, there were cannibal cults. I believe the literary device probably originated as a way of othering these cults, of creating and enforcing the taboo against cannibalism. Once that taboo was firmly established, and cannibals were definately othered in most minds, it continued to have currency - with cannibals firmly established as others, perhaps the ultimate others, it was a very useful literary device for othering.



Posted By: King John
Date Posted: 03-May-2009 at 23:06
Great post edgewaters, thank you for the information.  I know that in a few of the Old Norse Sagas cannibalism is used as a way of goading male relatives to take vengeance for a murder, it is also used by female relatives to take vengeance for male relations.  A prime example of this would be Atlakviða in which Guðrún prepares a feast for Atli, once he starts eating he is told that he is eating his children.  Guðrún does this to avenge the deaths of her brothers Gunnarr and Högni.


Posted By: gcle2003
Date Posted: 04-May-2009 at 11:54

In part of the legend of St Christopher he is a cynocephalic monster. But Christianity presented another kind of cannibalism: this is Galahad's vision at the climax of the Quest (in Malory):

Quote
And at the lifting up there came a figure in likeness of a child, and the visage was as red and as bright as any fire, and smote himself into the bread, so that they all saw it that the
bread was formed of a fleshly man; and then he put it into the Holy Vessel again, and then he did that longed to a priest to do to a mass.
 


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Citizen of Ankh-Morpork
Never believe anything until it has been officially denied - Sir Humphrey Appleby, 1984.


Posted By: Cyrus Shahmiri
Date Posted: 04-May-2009 at 13:30
According to Iranian mythology we know Cannibals (Greek Manticore from Old Persian Martikhoras "maneater") ruled about 1,000 years over Iranian peoples, Ferdosi says in Shahnameh that they were Arabs! Armenian historian Moses Khorenatsi (410-490 AD) just talks about it in the "From the Fables of the Persians" chapter of his book, and says "What is the interest of Persians to say they were people who ate them?! When do they want to get rid of these false fables?!"


Posted By: es_bih
Date Posted: 04-May-2009 at 15:16
Cyrus that has nothing to do with the topic at hand.

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Posted By: Cyrus Shahmiri
Date Posted: 04-May-2009 at 15:30
Originally posted by es_bih es_bih wrote:

Cyrus that has nothing to do with the topic at hand.
King John sent me a PM and asked me to post something about Cannibalism in Iranian mythology in this thread and I did it.


Posted By: es_bih
Date Posted: 04-May-2009 at 16:40
I would love some information, too, but not quick swipes at Arabs. Some text, and bibliography.

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Posted By: Cyrus Shahmiri
Date Posted: 04-May-2009 at 16:49
I should also mention that the story of Beowulf seems to be very similar to the famous Persian story of Beorasb (بيوراسب) from Avestan Baevaraspa "one who has ten thousnad horses".
The interesting thing is that Baevaraspa is not an evil in Avesta but in the Middle Persian he becomes the same as Azhidahak!! Khorenatsi calls the king of Cannibals who conquered Iran "Azhidahak Bevarasp", in Jamasp Namak, we read: http://www.avesta.org/pahlavi/jamaspi.htm - http://www.avesta.org/pahlavi/jamaspi.htm  : "The accursed Azdahak, whom they call Baevaraspa, with the prince Spediverand with may demons caught him, slew him, and took up one thousand rays from it." and then we see Azhidahak is just called Baevarasp: "Baevarasp will come out of captivity, will conquer the world, and will then eat up men."
I think the first real historical figure who was called Azhidahak by Persians, was the last Median King Ishtovigu, as you read here: http://www.kurdistanica.com/?q=node/101 - http://www.kurdistanica.com/?q=node/101  The controversial title Âzhi Dahâk for the last Median king was already known to Herodotus, albeit in a corrupted form, as Astyages.
The reason was that, as Herodotus also mentions, he was really a man-eater! You probably know the famous Median General Harpagus: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harpagus - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harpagus  -> " http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astyages - Astyages , meanwhile, took the son of Harpagus, and slew him, after which he cut him in pieces, and roasted some portions before the fire, and boiled others..."


Posted By: King John
Date Posted: 04-May-2009 at 18:00
Originally posted by es_bih es_bih wrote:

Cyrus that has nothing to do with the topic at hand.
It does have to do with the topic at hand, since I intentionally added an edit to my original post yesterday that expands the topic to cannibalism in all literature.  I also sent Cyrus a pm asking him to bring his knowledge of Persian/Iranian literature to the topic.


Posted By: King John
Date Posted: 04-May-2009 at 18:06
Originally posted by Cyrus Shahmiri Cyrus Shahmiri wrote:

I should also mention that the story of Beowulf seems to be very similar to the famous Persian story of Beorasb (بيوراسب) from Avestan Baevaraspa "one who has ten thousnad horses".
The interesting thing is that Baevaraspa is not an evil in Avesta but in the Middle Persian he becomes the same as Azhidahak!! Khorenatsi calls the king of Cannibals who conquered Iran "Azhidahak Bevarasp", in Jamasp Namak, we read: http://www.avesta.org/pahlavi/jamaspi.htm - http://www.avesta.org/pahlavi/jamaspi.htm  : "The accursed Azdahak, whom they call Baevaraspa, with the prince Spediverand with may demons caught him, slew him, and took up one thousand rays from it." and then we see Azhidahak is just called Baevarasp: "Baevarasp will come out of captivity, will conquer the world, and will then eat up men."
I think the first real historical figure who was called Azhidahak by Persians, was the last Median King Ishtovigu, as you read here: http://www.kurdistanica.com/?q=node/101 - http://www.kurdistanica.com/?q=node/101  The controversial title Âzhi Dahâk for the last Median king was already known to Herodotus, albeit in a corrupted form, as Astyages.
The reason was that, as Herodotus also mentions, he was really a man-eater! You probably know the famous Median General Harpagus: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harpagus - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harpagus  -> " http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astyages -
Very interesting Cyrus, I'm curious to know if there are any creatures similar to "the Grendel family" in the story of Beorasb?  What I am interested in knowing is, is there a character or characters that are cannibalistic villains?


Posted By: gcle2003
Date Posted: 04-May-2009 at 18:41
Are the Grendels strictly speaking 'villains', rather than representatives of an alien enemy? A man-eating lion is surely not a 'villain'?

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Citizen of Ankh-Morpork
Never believe anything until it has been officially denied - Sir Humphrey Appleby, 1984.


Posted By: Cyrus Shahmiri
Date Posted: 04-May-2009 at 19:09
Originally posted by es_bih es_bih wrote:

I would love some information, too, but not quick swipes at Arabs. Some text, and bibliography.
 
As I said just Ferdosi says that they were Arabs, maybe just because of his nationalistic views towards Arabs who had also conquered Iran some hundreds years earlier!
 
The Persian story is almost the same as the Old English one, about: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beowulf - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beowulf
 

Beowulf begins with the story of King http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hro%C3%B0gar - Hroðgar , who built the great hall http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heorot - Heorot for his people. In it he, his wife http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wealh%C3%BEeow - Wealhþeow , and his warriors spend their time singing and celebrating, until http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grendel - Grendel , an outcast from society who is angered by the singing, attacks the hall and kills and devours many of Hroðgar's warriors while they sleep. But Grendel dares not touch the throne of Hroðgar, because he is described as protected by a powerful god. Hroðgar and his people, helpless against Grendel's attacks, abandon Heorot.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beowulf_%28hero%29 - Beowulf , a young warrior from Geatland, hears of Hroðgar's troubles and with his king's permission leaves his homeland to help Hroðgar.

Beowulf and his men spend the night in Heorot. After they fall asleep, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grendel - Grendel enters the hall and attacks, devouring one of Beowulf's men. Beowulf, who bears no weapon as this would be an unfair advantage over the unarmed beast, has been feigning sleep, and leaps up and clenches Grendel's hand. The two battle until it seems as though the hall might collapse. Beowulf's retainers draw their swords and rush to his aid, but their blades do not pierce Grendel's skin because he is magically immune to human weapons. Finally, Beowulf tears Grendel's arm from his body at the shoulder and Grendel runs to his home in the marshes to die.

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Fereydun is the Persian hero and the Persian king is Jamshid who built the great hall of Takhte-Jamshid (Throne of Jamshid), Iranians believe that it was the same Persepolis: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persepolis - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persepolis  Grendel is Persian Azhidahak, he is also angered by the joy of Iranians, so he attacks and cannibalizes anyone he finds in Iran. Jamshid dies and another Persian hero Kaveh the Blacksmith rebels against Azhidahak but can do nothing except fleeing to the mountains, many people follow him and the country is abandoned to cannibals.
Fereydon a young Persian warrior who lives there, meets the people and hears Kaveh's troubles. He agrees to lead the people against Azhidahak, they go to fight against him and finally in a battle Fereydun strikes Azhidahak down with his ox-headed mace, but doesn't kill him; on the advice of an angel, he imprisons him in a cave underneath Mount Damavand.


Posted By: gcle2003
Date Posted: 04-May-2009 at 20:44
How is that similar to the Beowulf legend? Beowulf kills Grendel, his mother and a dragon. All you're saying is that there's a Persian legend in which a hero doesn't even kill, merely imprisons, an evil king. There's a similar Avestan story about Azhidahak in which he actually kills a three-headed serpent, and the linkage of the myths there is obvious.
 
But no mother, no mysterious beast and no dragon. Are you really going to claim that any story in which someone kills someone is therefore 'similar' enough to a Persian myth to indicate one affected the other?
 
PS I know there are several other versions of the Persian story. None of them is in the least like Beowulf, for one thing because the heroes are always Persian whereas Beowulf is an incoming outsider who takes over the kingdom he frees.  


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Citizen of Ankh-Morpork
Never believe anything until it has been officially denied - Sir Humphrey Appleby, 1984.


Posted By: King John
Date Posted: 04-May-2009 at 21:19
Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

Are the Grendels strictly speaking 'villains', rather than representatives of an alien enemy?
Are the Grendel's villains, yes.  They are villains because they are described as such in the poem.  They are called, "wicked one," "infamous one," and other names that place them as villains.  From the point of view of Hroðgar, Beowulf and the poet the Grendels are definitely enemies.  Furthermore, they are clearly placed as cognitive beings by the poet, scholars, and St. Augustine.  I personally think that the Grendels are villains and representatives of an alien enemy; one can be both.
Quote A man-eating lion is surely not a 'villain'?
It can be a villain if the story is a metaphor; ie: a lion eating a lamb - Christ is often described/shown as a lamb if the lion is eating this lamb in this specific setting one can easily see the lion as a villain.  But enough being cute.  A man-eating lion can certainly be a villain, since its actions fall under the definition of villain.  Villain is defined by dictionary.com as follows:
Quote vil·lain  n.  
  1. A wicked or evil person; a scoundrel.
  2. A dramatic or fictional character who is typically at odds with the hero.
  3. also (vĭl'ān', vĭ-lān') Variant of  http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/villein - villein .
  4. Something said to be the cause of particular trouble or an evil: poverty, the villain in the increase of crime.
  5. Obsolete A peasant regarded as vile and brutish.

[Middle English vileinfeudal serf, person of coarse feelings, from Old French, from Vulgar Latin *vīllānusfeudal serf, from Latinvīllacountry house; see weik-1 in Indo-European roots.]
As you can see a man-eating line can be a villain under definition four.  If the man-eating lion is a character in a novel or other fictitious work, then it can be a villain under definition 2.  Under these definitions the Grendels are villains as well.  The Grendels are also clearly representative of an alien enemy because of the foreign behaviors.

Beyond the cannibalism in your story, Cyrus, I'm not seeing the similarities.


Posted By: gcle2003
Date Posted: 05-May-2009 at 10:36
I guess I can live with that, King John. It still rings a little unconvicingly in my ears, basically I think because I'm conditioned to think of a 'villain' as someone who knowingly does wrong - that is, someone who knows that what he is doing is wrong.

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Citizen of Ankh-Morpork
Never believe anything until it has been officially denied - Sir Humphrey Appleby, 1984.


Posted By: Cyrus Shahmiri
Date Posted: 05-May-2009 at 13:16
Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

How is that similar to the Beowulf legend? Beowulf kills Grendel, his mother and a dragon. All you're saying is that there's a Persian legend in which a hero doesn't even kill, merely imprisons, an evil king. There's a similar Avestan story about Azhidahak in which he actually kills a three-headed serpent, and the linkage of the myths there is obvious.
 
But no mother, no mysterious beast and no dragon. Are you really going to claim that any story in which someone kills someone is therefore 'similar' enough to a Persian myth to indicate one affected the other?
 
PS I know there are several other versions of the Persian story. None of them is in the least like Beowulf, for one thing because the heroes are always Persian whereas Beowulf is an incoming outsider who takes over the kingdom he frees.  
Where did you read that Beowulf kills Grendel?! As I read both cannibals in Anglo-Saxon and Persian texts, are just wounded by the heroes, you can read here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grendel - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grendel  "Grendel dies in his cave under the swamp", so we see these two stories are so much similar to each other.
When I said "Fereydun is the Persian hero", I didn't mean that Fereydun was Persian but the hero in the Persian texts is Fereydun, in fact there were no Persian, or even Iranian people in that time, you can read here about Fereydun: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fereydun - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fereydun  At the end of his life he allocated his kingdom to his three sons; Salm, Tur, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C4%AAraj - Iraj . Iraj was Fereydun’s youngest and favored son and inherited the best part of the kingdom namely http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran - Iran . Salm inherited http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asia_Minor - Asia Minor (" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R%C3%BBm - Rūm ", more generally meaning the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Empire - Roman Empire , the Greco-Roman world, or just "the West") and Tur inherited http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_Asia - Central Asia (" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turan - Tūrān ", all the lands north and east of the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxus - Oxus , as far as China), respectively.
Vadak, mother of Azhidahak, was also a Cannibal and according to Zoroastrian texts she was even worse than her son Azhidahak.


Posted By: King John
Date Posted: 05-May-2009 at 15:02
Beowulf inflicts the wound that kills Grendel.  Another way of saying this is that Beowulf mortally wounds Grendel; therefore Beowulf is the one that kills Grendel.


Posted By: gcle2003
Date Posted: 05-May-2009 at 15:14
Whatever nationality Fereydun may have been, he nevertheless became king of his own people, not a foreign one. And he didn't kill Vadak: obviously every slain creature had a mother so it's pointless to argue that it's a significant similarity of Azhidahak to Grendel.

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Citizen of Ankh-Morpork
Never believe anything until it has been officially denied - Sir Humphrey Appleby, 1984.


Posted By: gcle2003
Date Posted: 05-May-2009 at 15:27
Isn't Humbaba in Gilgamesh a cannibal? Irritatingly enough I can't find my copy (of the Mitchell translation).
 
(Yesterday I couldn't find Beowulf when I looked, but noticed Gilgamesh and didn't think it relevant - today I can't find Gilgamesh but keep stumbling on Beowulf. Now there's grounds for a conspiracy theory. Confused )


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Citizen of Ankh-Morpork
Never believe anything until it has been officially denied - Sir Humphrey Appleby, 1984.


Posted By: Cyrus Shahmiri
Date Posted: 05-May-2009 at 18:34
Originally posted by King John King John wrote:

Beowulf inflicts the wound that kills Grendel.  Another way of saying this is that Beowulf mortally wounds Grendel; therefore Beowulf is the one that kills Grendel.
I think the Old English text doesn't even say that Grendel really died but "hell received him", in this case he has the similar fate with Azhidahak, in fact they shouldn't be killed and just imprisoned in a hell, you can read the reason here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zahhak - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zahhak  (Frēdōn & Dahak are the Middle Persian forms of Fereydun and Azhidahak)
 
Frēdōn is said to have been endowed with the divine radiance of kings ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khvarenah - xvarənah , New Persian farr) from birth, and was able to defeat Dahāg at the age of nine, striking him on shoulder, heart and skull with a mace and giving him three wounds with a sword. However, when he did so, vermin (snakes, insects and the like) emerged from the wounds, and the god http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahura_Mazda - Ormazd told him not to kill Dahāg, lest the world become infested with these creatures. Instead, Frēdōn chained Dahāg up and imprisoned him on the mythical Mt. Damāvand.


Posted By: gcle2003
Date Posted: 05-May-2009 at 19:43
Originally posted by Cyrus Shahmiri Cyrus Shahmiri wrote:

Originally posted by King John King John wrote:

Beowulf inflicts the wound that kills Grendel.  Another way of saying this is that Beowulf mortally wounds Grendel; therefore Beowulf is the one that kills Grendel.
I think the Old English text doesn't even say that Grendel really died but "hell received him",
Here's the OE text:
 
Here's Heaney's translation:
Quote
With his death upon him, he had dived deep
Into his marsh-den, drowned out his life
and his heathen soul: hell claimed him.
Monty Python couldn't have found a more emphatic way of saying he ws long gone, departed, and pushing up daisies.
Beowulf is a Christian poem. In Christianity hell only claims you when you are dead.


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Citizen of Ankh-Morpork
Never believe anything until it has been officially denied - Sir Humphrey Appleby, 1984.


Posted By: King John
Date Posted: 05-May-2009 at 21:06
Originally posted by Cyrus Shahmiri Cyrus Shahmiri wrote:

Originally posted by King John King John wrote:

Beowulf inflicts the wound that kills Grendel.  Another way of saying this is that Beowulf mortally wounds Grendel; therefore Beowulf is the one that kills Grendel.
I think the Old English text doesn't even say that Grendel really died but "hell received him", in this case he has the similar fate with Azhidahak, in fact they shouldn't be killed and just imprisoned in a hell, you can read the reason here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zahhak - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zahhak  (Frēdōn & Dahak are the Middle Persian forms of Fereydun and Azhidahak).
The Old English text says on numerous occasions that Grendel died, I think you need to reread the poem.  This conversation, however, is not on topic; let's try and get back on topic.


Posted By: King John
Date Posted: 05-May-2009 at 21:11
Originally posted by Cyrus Shahmiri Cyrus Shahmiri wrote:

Frēdōn is said to have been endowed with the divine radiance of kings ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khvarenah - - Ormazd told him not to kill Dahāg, lest the world become infested with these creatures. Instead, Frēdōn chained Dahāg up and imprisoned him on the mythical Mt. Damāvand.
 Maybe it's just me but, while this is interesting, I'm failing to see how it relates to the topic at hand.  What does this have to do with cannibalism?  Let's stay on topic.


Posted By: bod
Date Posted: 05-May-2009 at 21:47
Is Grendel and his mother human?

I Know they come from a human family, "kindred of Cain" but they are obviously much changed. I put them in the same category as the sea creatures and the dragon more monster than human.

They would have to be human to be described as cannibals.


Posted By: King John
Date Posted: 05-May-2009 at 22:46
Originally posted by bod bod wrote:

Is Grendel and his mother human?

I Know they come from a human family, "kindred of Cain" but they are obviously much changed. I put them in the same category as the sea creatures and the dragon more monster than human.

They would have to be human to be described as cannibals.
I think you can make the case for them being human.  St. Augustine and Isidore of Seville place these monstrous creatures as humans.  Also if you look at how the Old English describes Grendel and Beowulf; you will see that they are described in similar terms.  There are also similarities between the living spaces of the Grendels and the Geats and Danes; the cave in the fen where the Grendels live is described as having a hall adorned similar to Heorot.  Let's also not forget that the poet tells us that the Grendels come from the race of Cain, granted this was a later addition to the poem.  For these reasons and more you can make the argument that the Grendels are in fact human.

Do monsters have to be non-human?


Posted By: gcle2003
Date Posted: 06-May-2009 at 11:49
bod's point that you have to be human to be a cannibal if you eat human flesh is valid. I withdraw Humbaba as a candidate Smile

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Citizen of Ankh-Morpork
Never believe anything until it has been officially denied - Sir Humphrey Appleby, 1984.


Posted By: Cyrus Shahmiri
Date Posted: 07-May-2009 at 19:30
King John, I think you need to read more about Azhidahak to know what a cannibal is in the Indo-Eroupean culture, of course cannibals were originally humans but they were differed from humans when they became cannibal.


Posted By: gcle2003
Date Posted: 07-May-2009 at 19:35
Dogs are cannibals when they eat dogs, not when they eat people.

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Citizen of Ankh-Morpork
Never believe anything until it has been officially denied - Sir Humphrey Appleby, 1984.


Posted By: King John
Date Posted: 07-May-2009 at 23:09
Originally posted by Cyrus Shahmiri Cyrus Shahmiri wrote:

King John, I think you need to read more about Azhidahak to know what a cannibal is in the Indo-Eroupean culture, of course cannibals were originally humans but they were differed from humans when they became cannibal.
They didn't differ from humans when they became cannibals, they differed from a given culture remaining human (unless otherwise noted).  The Mermedonians of the peom Andreas were cannibals and repeatedly described as human; why were they not described as something other than human, since they were cannibals?  Saying their behavior made them into "monsters" doesn't mean they ceased to be humans.  THe fact of the matter is that Augustine and Isidore both argue the anthropophagi had souls; this firmly places them (the anthropophagi) within the human race.  

I'm not saying that there isn't a greater meaning behind the act of cannibalism, what I am saying is that becoming a cannibal doesn't mean ceasing to be human.


Posted By: Cyrus Shahmiri
Date Posted: 09-May-2009 at 14:18
Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

Dogs are cannibals when they eat dogs, not when they eat people.
I know what you mean, but a cow that eats flesh, however is still similar to a cow, but can not be called a cow, of course in some tragic events like the famine, there were people who had to eat other people but we don't call them cannibals, about Azhidahak we see he had really a body of a human but if he didn't eat the humans, in spite of the fact that there were many things that he, like the humans, could eat, then he would have to eat his own body, it shows he was not a human in essence or better to say he was originally a human who was changed to a cannibal.


Posted By: gcle2003
Date Posted: 09-May-2009 at 14:41
Originally posted by Cyrus Shahmiri Cyrus Shahmiri wrote:

Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

Dogs are cannibals when they eat dogs, not when they eat people.
I know what you mean, but a cow that eats flesh, however is still similar to a cow, but can not be called a cow,
You just called it one.
Quote
of course in some tragic events like the famine, there were people who had to eat other people but we don't call them cannibals, about Azhidahak we see he had really a body of a human but if he didn't eat the humans, in spite of the fact that there were many things that he, like the humans, could eat, then he would have to eat his own body, it shows he was not a human in essence or better to say he was originally a human who was changed to a cannibal.
The definition of a cannibal is a member of a species who/which eats other members of the same species, or parts of them.
 
Follow the logic of 'a cow that eats flesh (of a cow) cannot be a cow' and cannibalism would then never exist.


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Citizen of Ankh-Morpork
Never believe anything until it has been officially denied - Sir Humphrey Appleby, 1984.


Posted By: bod
Date Posted: 09-May-2009 at 16:18
"Thus were the noble warriors living happily in bliss until a certain one began to devise evil - a fiend of Hell. Grendel was the grim demon named - a mighty stalker of the marchers, who held fen and fastness. The joyless being dwelt awhile in the abode of the race of seamonsters after the creator had proscribed him. Upon the kindred of Cain did the Eternal Lord avenge that murder because he slew Abel. No pleasure had he in that feud, but for that crime the creator banished him far from mankind. Thence were born all the evil progeny  - Giants and elves and seamonsters;"  
(from Beowulf, translated by Wentworth Huyshe.)

Are these Giants and elves and seamonsters human too in the same way as Grendel ?

It is hard to put beings that are not real into a catagorySmile


Posted By: King John
Date Posted: 09-May-2009 at 17:27
Beowulf places them as the progeny of Cain–a man, so yes I think you can say they are human.  Grendel's mother is called a sea-wolf (brimwylf in multiple places (lns. 1506 and 1599), she is also able to walk and live on land, what seamonsters do we know that can do this?  I think one can make the argument that these other groups of Cain's kindred are human, however, whether they are human or not is irrelevant for this discussion since the giants, elves, and nicors are not described in Beowulf as eating humans.  We must limit ourselves to discussing the beings that are explicitly said to eat human flesh.

Cyrus, your logic is flawed.  If a cow eats flesh, it is still as cow; nothing has changed to make the cow no longer a cow.  If I am not mistaken Hoof and Mouth/Mad Cow disease occurs when cows eat other cows.  Anatomically a cow is a cow no matter what it eats, just like a human is a human no matter what he/she eats.  Just because a being engages in cannibalism doesn't mean that that being ceases to be a member of that species.  To put it more clearly, a person who eats other people is a cannibal (because they eat another member of the species) and still a human nothing has changed making them a non-human.  If you want to say their behavior is less human, then yes that is true but they do not cease to be a human just because they devour human flesh.


Posted By: bod
Date Posted: 09-May-2009 at 19:14
Originally posted by King John King John wrote:

Beowulf places them as the progeny of Cain–a man, so yes I think you can say they are human.  Grendel's mother is called a sea-wolf (brimwylf in multiple places (lns. 1506 and 1599), she is also able to walk and live on land, what seamonsters do we know that can do this?  I think one can make the argument that these other groups of Cain's kindred are human, however, whether they are human or not is irrelevant for this discussion since the giants, elves, and nicors are not described in Beowulf as eating humans.  We must limit ourselves to discussing the beings that are explicitly said to eat human flesh.


I'm afraid I did not state my argument very clearly (I will improveEmbarrassed). I meant to say that Grendel was part of this race of seamonsters and giants who may or may not be human. If you think that these monsters are human then I guess the Grendels must be too. 

At the end of the day Beowulf is fiction and your own interpretation is what matters, it is not like we can give them a DNA test like a Neanderthal. 


Posted By: bod
Date Posted: 09-May-2009 at 19:54
Other tales (not old English) such as hansel and Gretal and Jack and the Beanstalk also use cannibals that are almost human like Grendal, maybe Witches and Giants eating people is a little easier to understand.


Posted By: gcle2003
Date Posted: 09-May-2009 at 20:00
Nicely put.
 
I think however that King John's interest is in the interpretation placed on cannibalism by the various authors and readers, and their reactions to it.
 
I can throw in another category of cannibalism: the involuntary sort, such as occurs in Shakespeare's Titus Anndronicus.  
Quote
TITUS. Why, there they are, both baked in this pie,
    Whereof their mother daintily hath fed,
    Eating the flesh that she herself hath bred.
    'Tis true, 'tis true: witness my knife's sharp point.
 
Here Titus inflicts cannibalism on the object of his revenge.


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Citizen of Ankh-Morpork
Never believe anything until it has been officially denied - Sir Humphrey Appleby, 1984.


Posted By: bod
Date Posted: 09-May-2009 at 20:38
Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

 
I can throw in another category of cannibalism: the involuntary sort, such as occurs in Shakespeare's Titus Anndronicus.  
Quote
TITUS. Why, there they are, both baked in this pie,
    Whereof their mother daintily hath fed,
    Eating the flesh that she herself hath bred.
    'Tis true, 'tis true: witness my knife's sharp point.
 
Here Titus inflicts cannibalism on the object of his revenge.


Yuck!!!

A bit like Sweeny Tod



Posted By: Cyrus Shahmiri
Date Posted: 10-May-2009 at 13:48
Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

Originally posted by Cyrus Shahmiri Cyrus Shahmiri wrote:

Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

Dogs are cannibals when they eat dogs, not when they eat people.
I know what you mean, but a cow that eats flesh, however is still similar to a cow, but can not be called a cow,
You just called it one.
Quote
of course in some tragic events like the famine, there were people who had to eat other people but we don't call them cannibals, about Azhidahak we see he had really a body of a human but if he didn't eat the humans, in spite of the fact that there were many things that he, like the humans, could eat, then he would have to eat his own body, it shows he was not a human in essence or better to say he was originally a human who was changed to a cannibal.
The definition of a cannibal is a member of a species who/which eats other members of the same species, or parts of them.
 
Follow the logic of 'a cow that eats flesh (of a cow) cannot be a cow' and cannibalism would then never exist.
I am talking about changing, a cannibal is a noun, not an adjective, that is not a cannibal-man, when we say dew-worm, silk-worm, bag-worm, ... it is clear that we are talking about worms but this is different when we say butterfly, however that is originally a worm too.


Posted By: gcle2003
Date Posted: 10-May-2009 at 14:04
Dew-worms are worms, and they stay worms. Bagworms and silkworms aren't worms, they are caterpillars, members of species that change form in their lifetime, just as a fertilised human ovum becomes a foetus, a foetus becomes a baby and a baby becomes an adult, though the change of form in the last process isn't as drastic in a mammal.
 
Simple rule: caterpillars have legs; worms don't.
 
And butterflies aren't ever worms either. They're butterflies as larvae, just as bagworms and silkworms are the larvae of moths.
 
When an animal eats its own species it doesn't even change shape, let alone change species.  


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Citizen of Ankh-Morpork
Never believe anything until it has been officially denied - Sir Humphrey Appleby, 1984.


Posted By: King John
Date Posted: 10-May-2009 at 18:02
Originally posted by Cyrus Shahmiri Cyrus Shahmiri wrote:

Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

Originally posted by Cyrus Shahmiri Cyrus Shahmiri wrote:

Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

Dogs are cannibals when they eat dogs, not when they eat people.
I know what you mean, but a cow that eats flesh, however is still similar to a cow, but can not be called a cow,
You just called it one.
Quote
of course in some tragic events like the famine, there were people who had to eat other people but we don't call them cannibals, about Azhidahak we see he had really a body of a human but if he didn't eat the humans, in spite of the fact that there were many things that he, like the humans, could eat, then he would have to eat his own body, it shows he was not a human in essence or better to say he was originally a human who was changed to a cannibal.
The definition of a cannibal is a member of a species who/which eats other members of the same species, or parts of them.
 
Follow the logic of 'a cow that eats flesh (of a cow) cannot be a cow' and cannibalism would then never exist.
I am talking about changing, a cannibal is a noun, not an adjective, that is not a cannibal-man, when we say dew-worm, silk-worm, bag-worm, ... it is clear that we are talking about worms but this is different when we say butterfly, however that is originally a worm too.
Cyrus, a cannibal is defined as:

Originally posted by Merriam-Webster Merriam-Webster wrote:

 one that eats the flesh of its own kind
 As you can see a cannibal is still a member of the species.  So if a person eats the flesh of another person that person is still human.  Great white sharks, snakes, and other animals eat members of their own species, that doesn't make them no longer sharks, snakes, et al.  There is no change that takes place, a shark is a shark no matter what it eats, just like a human is a human no matter what he eats.  There is no change, the fact of the matter is that the noun cannibal is just a categorization of an actor and that actor's behavior.  If the actor is a human and is described as a cannibal, he by definition has to be a human; there is no change that occurs, there is only a change in behavior that behavior doesn't make a cannibal no longer human (or a member of a given species).


Posted By: Cyrus Shahmiri
Date Posted: 11-May-2009 at 17:24
A person who just eats the flesh of another person is not called a cannibal, we don't call people who had to do it in the famine period and other tragic events, cannibals, do we? Cannibals especially in the Indo-European cultures have also other characteristics, they couldn't be good persons, is it even possible that someone who kills another person to eats his flesh, is considered as a good person? A cannibal was not only a man-eater but also a cruel, tyrant, destroyer, ... so he couldn't be a regular human being.


Posted By: King John
Date Posted: 11-May-2009 at 19:00
Originally posted by Cyrus Shahmiri Cyrus Shahmiri wrote:

A person who just eats the flesh of another person is not called a cannibal, we don't call people who had to do it in the famine period and other tragic events, cannibals, do we?
Actually yes we do say they were cannibals.  More rightly we say they reverted to cannibalism to survive; meaning that we qualify the cannibalism with the situation.  A person who just eats the flesh of another person is by definition a cannibal and is called such.  Could you provide an instance where a person, who because of a tragic turn of events, eats the flesh of another person and is not referred to as either resorting to cannibalism or being a cannibal?
Quote Cannibals especially in the Indo-European cultures have also other characteristics, they couldn't be good persons, is it even possible that someone who kills another person to eats his flesh, is considered as a good person?
I can give you instances, such as the Donner party, where people resorted to cannibalism and were still good people.  So yes a cannibal can be considered a good person.  
Quote A cannibal was not only a man-eater but also a cruel, tyrant, destroyer, ... so he couldn't be a regular human being.
He most certainly could be a regular human being.  Being a bad, cruel person doesn't mean that the person is no longer a person.  Even if he wasn't a "regular human being" he was still a human being otherwise he couldn't be a cannibal.  How is this hard to understand?  Again, I draw your attention to the Mermedonians of the poem Andreas, they are described as inhabitants of the land where men eat each other.  The cannibalism of this population is not confined to the aristocratic parts of the population but is a characteristic of the whole population.  As you can see they are described as men with the qualification that they practice cannibalism.  While their behavior might not be very "human" from the point of view of the Anglo-Saxon audience, that doesn't make them not human.  Their practicing of cannibalism makes them a population to be feared and makes the work of Saint Andrew that much more heroic.  It also defines the Mermedonians as a population apart from the rest of the Christian world, the "Other" if you will.

By the way let's also not forget the ritual cannibalism that takes place in certain Christian rights like eating the host and drinking the sacred wine.  In this part of the Catholic service the priest says that the host represents the body of Christ and the wine the blood.  How can one partake in this right and be a bad person?  This is not a perfect analogy.

I just want to point out that being a cannibal requires one to be a member of the species which you eat.  If a man eats another then that man is a cannibal, end of story.  Being described as cruel, a tyrant, or destroyer does not make a person no longer human; if so than many rulers of the modern world and the pre-modern world would no longer be human.  Keep in mind that these same rulers were not called cannibals.  These terms are not mutually exclusive with cannibalism.  The terms you use to describe cannibals are terms of perspective, if the enemy writes about a ruler and labels him cruel, a tyrant, or a destroyer, that doesn't mean that he actually was since there is certainly going to be a population that thinks his actions were neither cruel, tyrannical, or destructive.  


Posted By: Cyrus Shahmiri
Date Posted: 12-May-2009 at 14:27
I don't know you want to discuss about cannibal just as a word which means a person who eats the flesh of other human beings or a mythical creature in the Old English and other texts, do you think Grendel reverted to cannibalism to survive? There are certainly some differences between forced or optional behaviors, don't you think so?


Posted By: gcle2003
Date Posted: 12-May-2009 at 14:37
There are enforced cannibalism and optional cannibalism, of course. But they're still cannibalism.

-------------
Citizen of Ankh-Morpork
Never believe anything until it has been officially denied - Sir Humphrey Appleby, 1984.


Posted By: King John
Date Posted: 12-May-2009 at 16:37
Originally posted by Cyrus Shahmiri Cyrus Shahmiri wrote:

I don't know you want to discuss about cannibal just as a word which means a person who eats the flesh of other human beings or a mythical creature in the Old English and other texts, do you think Grendel reverted to cannibalism to survive? There are certainly some differences between forced or optional behaviors, don't you think so?
The goal of this thread is to discuss cannibalism not only in Beowulf but also other texts.  I do not think that the Grendels resorted to cannibalism to survive, I think their cannibalism serves a function in the story, however, their cannibalism does not make them not-human as you have argued.  Of course there are differences between forced and optional cannibalism, but as GCLE said it is still cannibalism whether forced or not.

*Edit: By the way, there is no mythical creature in Old English texts that is named cannibal, the word is used to describe certain actions (and not in the text).  Grendel is a creature that is described in many ways, some very similar to the ways in which Beowulf himself is described.  These descriptions, however, differ in one way, Grendel is described as devouring the flesh of men; a  description that is never used for Beowulf.  I'm interested in discussing cannibalism in literature, however, saying that a cannibal is no longer human (as you have said) flies in the face of the definition.  The point in defining the word was to show you that even though cannibalism carries certain traits in literature, it doesn't mean that a person exhibiting those traits is no longer human.


Posted By: bod
Date Posted: 13-May-2009 at 23:09
Originally posted by Cyrus Shahmiri Cyrus Shahmiri wrote:

I don't know you want to discuss about cannibal just as a word which means a person who eats the flesh of other human beings or a mythical creature in the Old English and other texts, do you think Grendel reverted to cannibalism to survive? There are certainly some differences between forced or optional behaviors, don't you think so?

It is described in Beowulf how Grendel cannibalises the people who sleep in the hall because he hates them they disturb his peace.

"Then the powerful Demon who abode in darkness could hardly for a while endure to hear every day the mirth, loud in the hall;"

It is allso stated that people who left the hall to sleep were safe.

"Then was it easy to find a man who sought rest for himself elsewhere....... He who afterwards kept himself farther and safer was the one who escaped the fiend!"

He does not cannibalise to feed a physical hunger, his attention is entirely focused on the hall, so is his mothers in her revenge.

The hall is the center of the Kings power, I guess Grendels attack on this building must be symbolic in some way.




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